According to the results of a new consumer survey conducted by berry brand Driscoll's, the vast majority of Americans—85 percent!—associate eating berries with happy, good feelings. Seems sort of obvious, right? Berries are simple pleasures: they're sweet, portable, un-fussy to eat. But as it turns out, there's much more to berries than meets the eye. According to Philip Stewart, who holds a Ph.D. in the molecular genetics of flowering in strawberry, the process of bringing a particular breed of berry all the way from the farm to your local supermarket is a lot more complex than we'd ever imagined.
As the head of Driscoll's North American strawberry breeding program, Stewart holds around 24 patents on berry breeds and oversees six breeding programs nationwide. It takes five years of testing a breed before it goes out to growers, and the brand's average strawberry breed has a commercial lifespan of about 3.5 years. "We're constantly replacing things," Stewart tells Food & Wine. "We have new varieties coming in every year."
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That's no small feat. For every fruit that makes it into your checkout basket, hundreds of thousands have gone before.